Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Watty's been to the TUC:

OK, that's not true. Well, not strictly true, but kind of interesting in an odd way. Yesterday, I was at a conference (Business Performance Measurement, among other things) in a place called Congress Centre. Not somewhere I'd been before, and I couldn't work out exactly where it was from the description. It's in Great Russell St, and apart from the British Museum and some rather expensive hotels, the only things I could think of on Gt Russell St were some upmarket second-hand bookshops. I was a little early, so I got off at Goodge St, and strolled through Bloomsbury in the morning sunlight, playing "spot the Blue Plaque" (12 of them, including one or two to people I'd actually heard of). As I turned into the street in question, I saw what had to be my destination in the middle distance. It looked oddly familiar, with some intriguing statuary on the canopy above the door.

As I drew closer, I suddenly realised where I knew it from - news programmes in my teenage years seemed to be regularly broadcast from these front steps, for this is Congress House, home of the TUC, Tolpuddle Martyrs and all. The Congress Centre is not used for union activities for most of the year, so they've turned it into a high tech conference venue and hire it out.

In the inner courtyard of the building (at least, it used to be an inner courtyard, now it's the main conference hall, but above first floor level it's still open to the sky) there is a very familiar-looking statue - you can see it in the blue bit on their home page, albeit a little fuzzily - which I think is by Eric Gill, but I may be wrong. I imagine it represents the noble suffering of the worker - sorry, Worker - or some such, and it's a shame it's kind of hidden now, for it's a powerful piece of work. At some point in the afternoon, I was listening to a presentation on how greater efficiencies in business information had led to huge improvements in one anonymous business (somewhere in Sweden, I think). The presenter was enumerating with great pride all of the savings and improvements which his new system had brought about: "and of course, they were able to make a number of redundancies..."

I swear I heard the statue, sobbing gently.

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